Third, it was perfectly clear 10 years ago that it would be very contentious, politically, to let the Bush tax cuts “expire.” It was perfectly clear that, in 2011 (or 2010, as it happened), Republicans would scream that failure to extend the Bush tax cuts would mean imposing the giantest most horrificest and business crushingest tax increases on “the American people” in US history. In 2001, Republicans hoped they would be able to extend the tax cuts going forward after 10 years; Democrats hoped that they would have enough to votes to let the cuts expire. Both parties kicked the can down the road 10 years. The Republicans were on the winning side of that decision.
So, in the end, I don’t think the Bush tax cuts were scheduled to expire in 10 years to help future Americans pay for things like their parents’ and grandparents’ retirements and health care. I think they were scheduled to expire in ten years in the cynical hope that they would keep being extended afterwards.
That’s what I thought 10 years ago, and I have seen nothing to the contrary to change my mind since.
The Bush tax cuts cost about $2.5 trillion so far and they’ll continue to cost money until they are ended (which may never happen). The wars cost another $2 trillion. Combined, that accounts for about a third of the total US debt.
Bush was foisted off on us by Very Serious People who thought Al Gore sighed too much to be president (go read the Daily Howler if you don’t understand how this happened). These same people — who now relentlessly fear-monger about the debt — did nothing to oppose the Bush tax cuts and cheered the wars.